Day THREE : Round THREE begins

The 2024 edition of the British Open continued today in Birmingham with eight Round Three matches from the top half of the draws at the Rep Theatre in Birmingham.

There were seven Egyptians in the mix and five of them – including top seeds and defending champions Nour ElSherbini and Ali Farag  – progressed to the quarters. Most impressive was a win for Salma Hany over fourth seed Nele Gilis.

Joel Makin became the first Welshman to reach the quarters since 2022 with a five game win over Youssef Ibrahim, Diego Elias won his first match after being crowned World Champion, and Olivia Weaver won an all-American five game tussle with Sabrina Sobhy.

Check out the reports and reaction below the results …

British Open 2024 : Tue 4th Jun, Day THREE , Round THREE (top)

Women’s Round Three (top) :
[1] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-1 [9/16] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn)   11-2, 9-11, 11-3, 11-3 (34m)
[8] Olivia Weaver (Usa) 3-2 [9/16] Sabrina Sobhy (Usa)   11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-3, 11-6 (51m)
[5] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 3-0 Hana Ramadan (Egy)   11-3, 11-5, 11-4 (23m)
[9/16] Salma Hany (Egy) 3-0 [4] Nele Gilis (Bel)   14-12, 11-5, 11-8 (48m)

Men’s Round Three (top) :
[1] Ali Farag
(Egy) 3-0 Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy)   11-8, 16-14, 11-3 (43m)
[6] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-1 Balasz Farkas (Hun)   12-10, 8-11, 11-3, 13-11 (53m)
[9/16] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-2 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy)   11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 (79m)
[3] Diego Elias (Per) 3-0 [9/16] Youssef Soliman (Egy)   11-4, 11-6, 12-10 (43m)


Mazen ends Farkas run

[6] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-1 Balasz Farkas (Hun) 12-10, 8-11, 11-3, 13-11 (53m)

World No.5 Mazen Hesham ended the impressive run of Balazs Farkas after sealing a high-octane four-game victory to close out the third day of action in Birmingham.

Hesham, a semi-finalist at the British Open last year, was tested throughout by the talented Farkas in what proved to be an extremely open affair, but eventually proved too strong, taking the match by a 12-10, 8-11, 11-3, 13-11 scoreline.

The pair couldn’t be split in an exhibition-like opening game, with ‘The Black Falcon’ relying on two strong points in a tie-break to draw first blood.

As the winners continued to flow from both rackets, so to did the errors, with Hesham missing his marks at the key stages of the second, hitting two tins to help Balazs to move from 8-8 to level proceedings.

Hesham got himself back on track in the third, pushing high up on the ’T’ and using his deception to force Balazs into some tough movements all over the court, moving into a 2-1 lead after a seven-minute third game.

With Hesham 7-5 down in the fourth, a deciding game was by no means off the table, but a brutal, physical rally which the Egyptian won was the first of five straight points in his favour.

Four match balls came and went for Hesham though, with a couple of costly errors into the tin opening the door ajar for Farkas. However, at the fifth time of asking, the No.6 seed managed to get over the finishing line, walking off court with the victory after 53 minutes of action.

 “I played Balasz recently, and I knew it was going to be tough this time as well. I knew that I was going to have to be on my mettle for the whole match. Luckily I won the fourth game, otherwise it was going to be a lot more tense. I think as you said, I got the job done – it’s the end of the season and everyone is trying to put in good performances.

“Hopefully, I can get better in the next rounds, and thank you to everybody who came here to watch today.

“My mind was going everywhere [in the fourth], it was a rollercoaster in there, but I pushed through it. I kept fighting with myself and here I am.”

Reports & Reaction

Weaver wins all-American five-game thriller

[8] Olivia Weaver (Usa) 3-2 [9/16] Sabrina Sobhy (Usa) 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-3, 11-6 (51m)

American No.1 Olivia Weaver recovered from 2-1 down to defeat compatriot Sabrina Sobhy in a back-and-forth five-game encounter at The Rep Theatre.

Weaver, who is currently sitting at a career-high ranking of World No.4, overturned an inferior 4-1 head-to-head record against Sobhy to progress to the last eight and set up a meeting with World No.1 Nour El Sherbini.

Weaver started confidently on the all-glass court in Birmingham, finding a consistent length and pushing her opponent deep into the back two corners. After taking the opening game and leading 8-4 in the second, the 28-year-old looked well set for a 2-0 advantage, but Sobhy had other ideas, pulling a string of superb winners together to level proceedings.

The third game proved a carbon copy of the second, with Weaver taking an early lead but making a couple of uncharacteristic errors to let Sobhy gain parity, with the latter winning seven straight points to take the lead for the first time.

Weaver bounced back to win a one-sided fourth game and draw level, before the pair traded points early in the fifth. From there, though, Weaver played attritional, accurate squash, pushing Sobhy to all four corners of the court and moving four match balls up. At the first time of asking, the No.8 seed sealed victory, advancing to the second British Open quarter-final of her career.

 “The head-to-head really favoured Sabrina, especially if you consider our college career. We’ve been playing for a very long time, and as you can see, she’s such an incredible player.

“She’s so skilful and so physical. I knew that I was going to have to dig deep and put in a really good performance to win today. I’m so grateful to have had Danny Massaro in my corner, who I’ve been working with now for years. He doesn’t get to see me live that often, but he was so critical to get me back to the basics and finding my game out there.

“I was getting tight out there at times, and she was playing extremely well and taking it into the front. I found my basics and then tried to use my confidence from there.”

Farag ends Abou’s hopes

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) 11-8, 16-14, 11-3 (43m)

World No.1 Ali Farag shook off the distraction of a broken nose to defeat a resilient Mohamed Abouelghar in three games and progress to the quarter-finals.

Farag, who was sporting a black face mask after an unfortunate collision in his second-round match against Omar Mosaad, had to be at his very best to defeat the former World No.7 by an 11-8, 16-14, 11-3 scoreline.

Abouelghar, currently ranked at World No.56, threw everything in his armoury at the top seed in the opening two games, but came up just short in the pressure moments.

From 8-8 in the first, Farag pulled together three immaculate points to lead 1-0, before saving three game balls in a 20-minute second game to double his advantage after a lengthy tie-break.

The huge push from Abouelghar in the second began to show in the subsequent game, with Farag pushing his opponent from corner to corner and racing into an early lead. The Egyptian brought up match ball after 43 minutes of action and sealed victory at the first time of asking.

“I think it was just the Zorro look – I just wanted to be more intimidating today! They think that it is a possible fracture, so the mask is to protect it and then when I go back I can fix it, but for now it is fine, just this mask is sometimes a little annoying with the sweat.

“I was trying to balance between being comfortable with it and playing well on court. In the crucial points I just thought I might as well get rid of it and I got back in it again.

“I still had to play very well to beat someone of Abouelghar’s calibre, and I think that I did that today, so I’m very proud. He has got such trickery with his racket and I rarely ever knew where the ball was going. The racket skills that he possesses are quite unique.”

Sherbini snuffs out Satomi comeback

[1] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-1 [9/16] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 11-2, 9-11, 11-3, 11-3 (34m)

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini saw off the threat of Satomi Watanabe in four games to progress to the quarter-finals in Birmingham.

El Sherbini, a four-time champion at the British Open, picked up where she left off from her second-round encounter with Sivasangari Subramaniam, hitting her marks to devastating effect and racing through a 6-minute first game by 11-2 scoreline.

Watanabe though, who was playing for the first time on the glass-floored court at The Rep Theatre, picked up the pace in the second game, rushing ‘The Warrior Princess’ and hitting the ball in short at the correct moments. At 10-9 up, the Japanese No.1 pulled out a perfect boast winner to level proceedings.

Errors began to flow from Watanabe’s racket with regularity in the third, with her lack of accuracy allowing El Sherbini to re-establish control in the match and move 2-1 up.

The top seed moved from strength to strength in the fourth, proving too powerful for Watanabe and sealing victory after 34 minutes on court.

“I felt the same as everyone else. It was a bit up and down. Satomi its an amazing player but you don’t know what to expect, it’s either an amazing shot or it can be a tin.

“I had a good start but maybe I slowed down a little bit in the second game, but I’m happy with how I came back in the third and fourth.

On bouncing back from defeat in the World Championships final, she added: “It was very tough. Of course, I’m more fired up, more hungry now, I’ve got another challenge and I’m definitely going to work for it. Playing here is important for me and I want to win the title, feel good, play good. The loss, I think I have learned a lot from it.”

World Champ Elias through to Quarters

[3] Diego Elias (Per) 3-0 [9/16] Youssef Soliman (Egy) 11-4, 11-6, 12-10 (43m)

World Champion Diego Elias continued his red-hot form with a 3-0 win over World No.11 Youssef Soliman to book his place in the last eight.

Elias made history in his last outing on the PSA World Tour, becoming the first South American to be crowned World Champion in Cairo last month. Today, he extended his winning run over Soliman to five matches following an 11-4, 11-6, 12-10 triumph.

The Peruvian dominated the first two games, with Soliman struggling to deal with Elias’s hold and accuracy.

Soliman’s best spell of pressure came in a tight third game as he was able to lift the ball into the back to take the front of the court away from Elias.

However, the 27-year-old had the quality to punish the Egyptian in the end, and he will take on Welshman Joel Makin in the next round.

“That was tough, he’s a very good player,” said Elias afterwards.

“He’s my age and we’ve been playing for a very long time. We know each other pretty well and I know how fit he is, he retrieves a lot of balls, so I knew it was going to be a bit long, but I’m happy with the way I played.

“He had a few chances and he was up in the middle of the game. I had to stay focused and try to come back, he fought until the end.

“I feel zero pressure. Of course the British Open is one of the biggest tournaments and and I’m playing good squash, but I won the World Championships a couple of weeks ago and I got to World No.1, so the pressure is off and I just want to enjoy my squash.

“A lot of famous people from Peru sent me messages or shared a story on Instagram. There were a few football players, Claudio Pizarro is one of the biggest football players ever in Peru, so I was pretty happy with that one.”

Hany takes out Gilis in three

[9/16] Salma Hany (Egy) 3-0 [4] Nele Gilis (Bel) 14-12, 11-5, 11-8 (48m)

Egypt’s Salma Hany has reached the quarter-finals for the first time in her career after a devastating performance from the World No.12 saw her upset World No.6 Nele Gilis in the third match of the day.

Despite the pair’s respective rankings, the form book was in Hany’s favour after winning seven of their nine matches on the PSA Tour, while Hany also triumphed when they met at April’s El Gouna International.

Gilis has struggled to find the form that took her to No.4 in the world as recently as last month and has now slumped to three successive last 16 exits, the first time that’s happened in over two years.

Meanwhile, Hany’s form has been trending upwards after ending an 11-year title drought in March’s Australian Open, while she also reached the last four of the Manchester Open two weeks ago.

The first game was crucial, with Hany narrowly edging it 14-12, and that seemed to sap the confidence of the Belgian, who grew increasingly frustrated as the match wore on.

11-5 and 11-8 wins came over the next two games for Hany, and she will take on No.5 seed Nour El Tayeb next.

“I think we’ve played four times this season and it’s always very tough,” said Hany.

“They were three really long games and it’s a very positive boost for me for the rest of the tournament. I was really grateful to be in front of this crowd in this amazing venue, and I’m pleased I managed to bring out that performance.

“I know how to play at a slow and fast pace and when I’m in the right zone I can vary those paces and make the most out of it. Nele was coming back really strong in that third game, all games were really tough, and I’m just glad I managed to close that one out.

“I prepare to finish in three, four or five games. It’s always nice to get out as fast as possible, but I always prepare for it to go to the wire. The goal is to come out as winner whatever of the score, so when it’s in three it’s a bonus for me.”

Makin edges past Ibrahim

[9/16] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-2 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) 11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 (79m)

Birmingham-based Joel Makin has become the first Welshman since Alex Gough in 2002 to reach the quarter-finals of this historic tournament after he prevailed in a captivating back-and-forth contest with Egyptian shotmaker Youssef Ibrahim.

Makin, who yesterday scored his first British Open win with an upset against former World Champion Tarek Momen, beat Ibrahim in the semi-final stage en route to his Manchester Open title win two weeks ago, and he followed that up with a dramatic 11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 win to reach the last eight.

The Welshman – who was born in Pembrokeshire before moving to Birmingham – made a solid start, hitting his targets well and exposing Ibrahim’s movement. Ibrahim had looked off the pace physically against Jonah Bryant in the opening round and he looked laboured towards the back end of the opening game too.

It looked for all the world as if Makin would see out the win in three given Ibrahim’s physical woes, but the Egyptian is a warrior. Like he did against Bryant, Ibrahim fought through the pain barrier, hitting winner after winner at the beginning of the second before quelling a Makin fightback to draw level.

He then took a 2-1 lead after battling back from 8-3 down in the third. Makin started off going in short well but then gifted Ibrahim a number of points and the World No.14 took full advantage. An angry Makin smashed his racket on the back wall, earning him a conduct warning for his troubles.

The fourth was another unpredictable game. Ibrahim had his nose in front initially but then the winners he was trying to hit at every attempt deserted him as he began the find the tin with regularity. Makin kept a cool head and duly drew level to send the match into a fifth.

Makin pulled away from the mid-way point, and Ibrahim just couldn’t land his attacking shots whenever he tried them, leaving Makin to clinch the victory in one of the best matches of the tournament so far.

“I got good leads and I don’t known what happened there,” said Makin.

“I was in and out concentration-wise today, which was poor. Against someone with this class and skill level you’re just going to lose points quickly. I had a disappointing end to the third, so I had to get back on top and get my concentration right for the next one.

“The more you train and the more you live in that discomfort area, you feel comfortable in those rallies and I think today was an anomaly. I like to think I’m very solid in those positions but that was poor today. This is professional sport, it’s hard to win and everyone is looking for scalp.

“We’re both trying to win, we’re playing for our livelihoods and for pride. Everyone gets animated and he’s a good lad, we’re fine. You’re going to get in each other’s faces and try and get an edge if you can.

“I’ve been here [Birmingham] 10-11 years, so this is home now, definitely. If I can charge around, throw myself around like that and get a competitive match then I’ll enjoy it. I’ve got Diego [Elias] next if things go to seeding, he’s the current World Champion and the man in form, so who better to test yourself against and see where you’re at?”

Tayeb eases into Quarters

[5] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 3-0 Hana Ramadan (Egy)   11-3, 11-5, 11-4 (23m)

Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb became the first player to book her spot in the quarter-finals of this year’s British Open after a dominant win over compatriot Hana Ramadan in the opening match of the day at Birmingham Rep Theatre.

El Tayeb, who reached the semi-finals of the British Open in 2019, had beaten Ramadan in both of their previous matches and made it a hat-trick of wins following an 11-3, 11-5, 11-4 win after just 23 minutes of action.

The World No.7 favoured short rallies and used the angles intelligently to prevent Ramadan from being able to get any sort of rhythm. It was largely one-way traffic, with Ramadan’s best spell of the match coming at the outset of the second game where she was able to raise the pace and force some errors out of El Tayeb.

However, El Tayeb was able to raise her accuracy to match and her win will see her take on either World No.6 Nele Gilis or World No.12 Salma Hany for a place in the last four.

“I had a tough round yesterday, so I think I was very ready from the beginning today and luckily everything went well for me and not for Hana, so it was a good day,” said El Tayeb afterwards.

“I was lucky to adjust better to the glass court than Hana. Any glass court is better to play on compared to normal courts. It’s got a glass floor and it’s very different, so it takes a bit to get used to, and I’m happy I was able to find it early in the match.

“The ball comes off the wall differently compared to a normal court. You have to adjust and the power of the hitting is different.

“All of the history of the sport is in the British Open. This and the World Championships are the most important tournaments. I would love to make it to a semi-final, I haven’t made it to the semi-finals of a Platinum event for two years, so it’s a long time.

“I’m very happy to be in the quarter-finals and I hope the other players have tough matches.”

Today’s Players in Round Two action